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It Has Nothing To Do With Age provides self-help principles. The inspirational stories give concrete illustrations of overcoming many of life's challenges. Difficulties pertaining to depression, grief, divorce, and death are presented and worked through by the participants. Physical impairments, injuries, overcoming issues with weight, alcohol, and nicotine are also dealt with and resolved by the athletes.

This book provides a model on how to overcome some of the difficulties that confront all of us . Further, this read sheds a beacon of light on preventive measures for good physical and mental health. Research demonstrates that exercise is an important component in treating such ailments and debilitating illness such as depression, stroke, heart disease, brain or cognitive malfunction,and Alzheimer's disease.

I suggest that proper exercise can be used as a preventive measure for psychological, cognitive, and physical health as well. Follow my prescription and lead a better, more fulfilling, and healthier life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Brain and Easing the Pain

"I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing."– Rabbi Hillel

Rabbi Hillel has got a point.  One way to take a look at what he said is that he persists in what he is doing.  He is able to go on despite or instead of obstacles that he has confronted.  How is this possible?  Do some people have more ability than others when it comes to perseverance?  Are some more mentally tough than others?  Does the ability to with -stand pain come in to play?   It is my guess that individual psychological differences are important when dealing with pain. I will give examples.  There were a number of times when I was on an ultra run, anywhere from a 50 K. to 100 miles and I would see my friend Bill.  He was at an aid station and I would run up and tell him “I am tired.”  He would reply “you are supposed to be tired.”  His feedback was reality-based.  He was not lying, he was not distorting, he was not sugar coating, and he was telling me the truth.   And I found his words helpful.  On the other hand, Secretariat might say something to himself like “get your butt going” to motivate him.  Notice there is nothing negative, with his self talk. Let us take a look at brain neuroscience   in searching for the answers to the questions raised earlier.

The title “Rewiring the Brain to Ease Pain” by Melinda Beck was found in the November 15, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal. This is going to be a two-part blog.  Part one is a dissection of the brain and locations in the brain related to pain. 1.   Anterior cingulate cortex-registers unpleasant feelings when things go wrong, either physically or emotionally.  People who are highly sensitive to pain have greater activity in this area. 2.  Somatasensory cortex-registers, which body part is in pain and the intensity of that pain.  Less activity here when patients focus their attention away from their pain. 3.  Insular cortex-integrates sensory, emotional and cognitive states; feels empathy for others pain. 4. Thalamus-receives pain signals from spinal cord and relays them to higher brain regions. 5. Periaqueductal Gray-an area rich in opioid that act as a pain reliever. 6.  Amygdala-anticipates pain and reacts to perceived threats. 7.  Pre-frontal cortex processes pain signals rationally and plans action.  Active when trying to consciously reduce pain. 8.  Medial Prefrontal Gyrus-focuses on negative personal implications of pain.  Heightened activity seen in anxious people. 9.  Right Lateral Orbital Frontal Cortex-evaluates sensory stimuli and decides on response, particularly if fear is involved.  Mindfulness meditation calms down this response.10.Nucleus Accumbens-releases dopamine and serotonin during pleasure or pain.

What are the implications for the ultra runner, someone with chronic pain, or some other athlete or active sports participant?  Stay tuned for more information to follow.  I am taking a continuing education class tomorrow, called “Conquering Pain” sponsored by the Inst. For Natural Resources.  Additional information about your brain and pain is forthcoming.

 I want to remind you of my book signing at Placer County Farm Supply, 10120 0phir Road, and New Castle, California.  916-663-3741 on November 26, from 12:00 to 2 PM. Join us there


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